2014 is coming to a close, so inevitably the chatter of New Year's resolutions is getting louder. It's great to start goal setting and structuring a program to make sure you're successful early; however, it's equally important to take note of what has and hasn't worked for your health and fitness goals this year. Regardless of whether you want to make a massive change for the better or carry on with the fitness success you've managed to accumulate, you'll want to take stock of your behavioral patterns to determine which are beneficial to keep and which need to be dropped.
Before I make suggestions to my clients about nutritional, physical, or mental changes to make, I experiment with myself. It allows me to articulate the disciplinary challenges and positive changes that new habits can bring to ones life. Additionally, it helps them move closer to their goals faster as I've already ruled out the things that are a waste of time.
This year I personally was able to surpass some personal fitness goals and help several clients do the same. The life changes you make to create a healthy lifestyle aren't always the obvious ones. Small triggers can initiate massive focused action. You may want to try and add the following 10 small yet profound changes to your life in 2015.
1. Make your bed immediately upon waking up.
Sounds silly, or you may already do it. I believe it's important to master things physically. That is make physical activity second nature. The little amount of exertion that it takes to make your bed can make it easier to get to an early morning workout. It's sometimes difficult to simply get out of bed in the morning. The act of completing this small task immediately upon waking up instills a sense of accomplishment at the critical start point of your day. It's a great way to get you into the right state of production.
2. Drink matcha tea.
The benefits of green tea have been proven and touted for a very long time. Matcha tea is the pumped-up version of bagged tea. Certain studies have shown matcha tea has more bio-available EGCGs than regular green tea. In addition, if you're doing it right, you'll use a whisk to prepare the tea and water combination. This act keeps you more present in the moment and allows you to focus on the purpose of being healthy, instead of dropping a bag in a cup and slamming the down the tea.
3. Lift heavy weights at least once a week.
It's definitely important to make sure you get several workouts in a week, but just showing up won't cut it. If you really want to be healthy you need to challenge yourself. Heavy is relative. Figure out what your one repetition max is. Then make sure at least once a week you do a workout that consists of the major lifts (squat, press, deadlift) and work around your max weights. If you want to maintain a healthy level of strength, bone density, and hormone levels you'll need to challenge yourself with what you perceive to be heavy free weight lifting.
4. Eat or drink something with carbs and protein during long strength workouts.
Don't do this for HIIT workouts or cardio-based workouts, and if you're someone who can't eat around workouts at all then this will be difficult. However, if you are lifting heavy and challenging yourself it will be beneficial to put some fuel into your system to avoid muscle waisting and keep your energy levels up. The more strenuous the workout the more taxing on your central nervous system. Stay balanced, have better recovery, and reach your goals faster with this little change.
5. Take video of exercises that are new to you, or exercises you are pushing to the next level.
This is especially important if you don't have a trainer or coach to critique your form. As soon as you introduce the variable of something new or something difficult it's more likely that your form will fail. It doesn't take much to set your phone on the ground or a bench and point it in your direction while doing a set. Watch the video back and see where you're going wrong. Plus, Instagram selfie... For motivation of course.
6. Start journaling.
When you're grateful, there is no fear. There is no better way to stay focused when the going gets tough than to write down the things you're thankful for. You can immediately gain perspective and realize how good you have it. This can relieve anxiety and make the difference between a successful healthy day and stressful one. Pick any three things that make you happy and write them down. It takes five minutes and the effects can last all day.
7. Schedule in meditation or quiet time.
If you can't find 20 minutes to disconnect and breath in your day, its time to make some serious changes. Meditation can be intimidating. The simplest way to get into it is to get in a comfortable position and count your breaths. I like a five-second inhale, hold for three seconds, five-second exhale, pause for three seconds, and repeat. Meditation doesn't have to be some mystical thing. If your mind starts to wander accept your thoughts and then move them along so you can get back to your breathing. If you aren't ready for meditation then just sit quietly without your cell phone, computer, or talking, and relax. This might be the only way to learn to remain calm. Do it.
8. Drink your coffee black with coconut oil.
Sugar and milk make for a nasty calorie packed cup of joe, but black coffee with a healthy omega-3 fat like coconut oil promotes recovery from workouts, insulin sensitivity, and better levels of energy and endurance. The caffeine in coffee can help move the healthy fats into your system fast too. Try this in the afternoon when you're feeling sluggish.
9. Take Epsom Salt baths.
You probably love drinking that green juice because you can feel your body reacting to the massive injection of magnesium into your system. Of course that's great because magnesium is a precursor to testosterone and many of us are deficient in this essential mineral. Another way to get magnesium is too bath in it. Pour it directly into the warm water in your tub and hop in for 15-20 minutes. I started doing this after heavy intense workouts and I swear I sleep better those nights. Remember, better balanced hormones means better sleep and recovery.
10. Develop a sleep ritual and stick to it.
Doing the same thing every night before bed can help promote falling asleep and getting better quality sleep. I use an app called Brainwave that has a mixed audio output of ambient sounds like ocean waves and tones called brainwaves. The brainwave tones are supposed to induce different states such as deep sleep, dreamy sleep, relaxation, etc, etc. What I know for sure is that using it every night helps me fall asleep and get quality rest. Maybe you need complete silence or music. Either way try and keep your sleep time consistent so you can get healthy amounts of shut eye. Sleep is when we recover and reset. Without proper sleep you cannot reach your fitness goals, and you may even get sick.
Some of these behaviors may already be part of your routine. If just one or two resonate with you, try to incorporate them with the rest of your healthy habits. Remember to not only embrace change, but also to keep the things that are working for you for the new year.